...because home doesn't happen overnight.

girl bedroom 8

I had to rework the closet in Mabrey’s room when I replaced her crib/toddler bed with a twin trundle. Bringing in a larger bed necessitated moving most of the playthings to the closet to free up floor space. You can see how the closet used to look when the room served as a nursery right here. A freestanding shelving unit (it lived in our previous home’s craft closet) was a temporary fix that worked well for the first few years to corral diapering essentials and a quickly evolving wardrobe. (Little ones outgrow clothing so quickly!) However, it wasn’t the most functional solution for a preschooler.


I sold the shelving unit and put the money towards the room makeover. To accommodate larger toy items like the dollhouse, shopping cart and stroller, we added a second shelf under the existing shelf and hanging rod. I measured the height of the dollhouse and shopping cart to allow for clearance, then we added cleats to the back and sides of the closet. We cut and laid a shelf board across the cleats. All the wood was left over from the whole house renovation (a longer shelf used to hang in the boys’ closet), so the cost to add the shelf was nil. I painted the shelf and closet to match the rest of the room.


I kept the closet curtain panel. With the door to the room opening up on to the closet, it’s just a less cumbersome setup versus a legit door. Plus, I really like using curtains vs. doors on children’s closets for practical reasons: no smashed fingers, easy access for little ones, no slamming doors! The curtain matches the panels at the window and hangs from an inexpensive tension rod just behind the stop of the door frame. Years ago, I hemmed it to puddle slightly at the floor for a casual vibe. The wood dot hooks next to the closet double as curtain tie backs.


The floor of the closet serves as a mini “garage” housing wheeled items like a stroller, shopping cart and portable toy box. The shopping cart was a joint gift from family a few years back, and it’s the toy Mabrey plays with most often. The rolling toy box is new. (Yes, I spray painted the green rims white and replaced the green rope with a white one because #typeA.) I filled it with blocks and Lincoln Logs from the boys’ closet since they’ve pretty much outgrown them and Mabrey plays with them more. (BONUS: This freed up space in the boys’ closet!) It’s so great having these items out of the way but within easy reach. Mabrey can pull them out on her own to play with in her room or in the living room. A laundry basket sits to the right of the toy box.

Mabrey doesn’t play with the stroller all that much so it sits in the corner for now. She doesn’t seem to have a huge interest in baby dolls. In fact, she keeps asking me if she has to have a husband and kids when she grows up. I tell her, “Absolutely not! You can do whatever you want and have any kind of family you want.” She says she wants to work, have a house and a cat, and she wants me to visit. So sweet!


The newly added shelf holds a dollhouse which Mabrey actually enjoys playing with in the closet. (See how I tweaked it here.) It’s right at eye level, so I guess that’s why. Even so, it can be easily moved out to the coffee table in the living room for access to all sides. A small wire basket off to the right holds a set of mini wooden figurines that Mabrey plays with in the house.


I stash books on the left and rotate them in and out of the wall-mounted bookshelf next to Mabrey’s bed, so we don’t get stuck reading the same books over and over again. It kinda works? If Mabrey had it her way, we’d read Richard Scarry’s Best Word Book Ever every night until she moved out. #somuchpointing


Dresses, tutus, butterfly wings and a few sweaters hang from an existing rod. I finally upgraded to wooden children’s hangers. I always thought they were too expensive for fast-growing kids, but I found these at IKEA for cheap. Woven baskets along the top shelf hold hand-me-downs that don’t quite fit yet. They’re organized by size and I rotate them in as needed.


One of my renovation regrets is not adding a hardwired light to Mabrey’s closet. (We did in the other bedroom closets.) The closet is so teeny that I thought it wouldn’t matter, but I was wrong. Hindsight is 20/20. We finally added a battery-operated, motion-sensing LED light overhead, and it’s my favorite thing about the closet now. We can actually see the closet contents in the dark, and the light turns off on its own!

I love how functional this closet is now, and I can totally see it evolving with Mabrey’s needs. Once the toys are long gone, a second hanging rod could be installed below the lower shelf for more clothing storage. Small, tidy closets for the win!

P.S. – A DIY hidden litter box.

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

IKEA dresser bench 1

The nursery version of Mabrey’s room featured an IKEA EXPEDIT (now discontinued) which served as a dresser/changing table. A mix of woven baskets and fabric bins held everything from clothing to diapering essentials to random toys. I added an extra long contoured changing pad to the top to give it yet another purpose. It served the nursery well, but as Mabrey grew so did her clothes. Eventually, the baskets couldn’t contain her wardrobe. They were overflowing and, more often than not, I would find them pulled out from the shelving unit. It was not a tidy look, and it wasn’t working for our current situation. (Not to mention, Mabrey hasn’t needed a diaper change for more than two years.) It was clear that we had outgrown the EXPEDIT, but it lived with us for nearly a decade as a living room console, playroom storage and media stand in previous residences. It had a good, long, multipurpose life. We got our money’s worth and then some. It was time to pass it on to someone else.

When I started searching for an upgrade, I knew I wanted another versatile piece that would stand the test of time and maybe even a few moves. Actual drawers were absolutely necessary! On a trip to IKEA earlier this year, I spotted a NORDLI dresser on display and was impressed with the customization options, soft-closing drawers and affordable price. After taking some measurements, I settled on the four-drawer NORDLI dresser.

IKEA dresser bench 3

It was easy enough to assemble and anchor to the wall. I took me maybe an hour and a half? The scale is spot-on! The length fits the wall opposite Mabrey’s bed perfectly. The drawers are wide and roomy, yet the 17″ depth is shallow enough to keep the middle of the room open for play.

IKEA dresser bench 6

Real drawers that open and close! Such a novel idea. The drawer hardware runs smoothly and the soft-closing dampers are every parent’s dream. Three of the drawers hold clothing. The fourth holds puzzles and a magnetic doll dress-up set.

IKEA dresser bench 7

I love the HÖFTA drawer dividers! They’re super handy for divvying up drawer space and organizing smaller items like socks, underwear, pajamas and costume accessories. Mabrey knows where to find everything, and everything has a designated spot to return to after washing.

IKEA dresser bench 5

IKEA dresser bench 2

The low-slung design reminds me of a bench, so I made a custom cushion for the top. I loosely followed this tutorial to sew the cushion which features french mattress seams for added interest and a casual vibe. I decided not to add tufts to the top because the cushion is so narrow and I thought tufts + patterned fabric might be too busy/formal. (Also, I’m lazy.) It’s worth noting that this is NOT a removable cover. We don’t allow food, drinks or art supplies in the kids’ bedrooms, so it shouldn’t be an issue. Even so, I’m no stranger to a little spot cleaning.

IKEA dresser bench 4

Sewing a french mattress cover is definitely more time consuming than making a basic boxed cushion cover. This took me the good part of a day, and my fingertips were numb for another two days. But I’m so happy with the result! It felt good to bust out the ol’ sewing machine. We have somewhat of an on-again-off-again relationship.

IKEA dresser bench 8

Adding the cushion added another function to the dresser. It makes for the coziest, pint-sized reading spot. (Cheetah loves curling up on it, too.) I love multipurpose pieces like this! Especially in tight spaces where square footage is at a premium. With a removable slipcover made from outdoor fabric, I could see this dresser-bench combo working just as well in an entry or mudroom – even a breakfast nook. With so many customization options available, the possibilities are endless.

IKEA dresser bench 9

I love finding affordable, quality pieces like this at IKEA. Too often, I think consumers wrongly equate quality with a big price tag only. When I think about quality, I consider design, materials, function, versatility, longevity and price. A piece that looks great, works well, serves multiple purposes for different rooms and/or different life stages doesn’t have to cost a fortune. Bonus points for possible customization and personalization! For instance, the BEKVÄM kitchen cart is solid, unfinished wood and begging for a DIY stain or paint job. I’d use it in a small kitchen as a bar cart or extra prep space, in a bathroom as added linen storage or in a craft room to corral art supplies. And it’s $60!

Do you have a favorite multipurpose IKEA piece?

P.S. – Stay tuned for a full tour of Mabrey’s big girl room along with a complete source list!

*I am a brand ambassadör for IKEA. This post sponsored in part by IKEA. I received product and payment for this collaboration. IKEA is a registered trademark of Inter IKEA Systems B.V. and is used with permission. The views, ideas and opinions expressed here are my own. Thank you for supporting the brands that support this blog!

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking